Loss of attraction is very common in long-term relationships, but although it’s not always a cause for concern, you shouldn’t ignore it.
At the beginning of a relationship passion and attraction are at an all-time high. Things are new and exciting, and you and your partner can’t keep your hands off each other.
Over time, and after the honeymoon phase of a relationship is over, it’s easy to get complacent and lose that all-consuming attraction you have for your partner.
Is it normal to lose attraction for your partner? Does it mean your relationship is over? We spoke with relationship experts about why a loss of attraction can happen in relationships, and what to do when it happens.
The short answer is yes, it’s normal. As discouraging as it might feel to lose attraction for your partner, you shouldn’t assume the relationship is doomed.
“We are all likely to experience a loss of attraction for our partners at some point (or at several points) in our relationship journey,” says Dr. Marisa T. Cohen, a relationship scientist and therapist.
Buddhist sex therapist and clinical psychologist Dr. Cheryl Fraser agrees and says it’s one of the most common issues she sees in couples. “This loss of attraction most certainly does not mean the relationship is over. However, it does mean the easy, lusty, falling-in-love phase is over,” she says.
“During the honeymoon phase of a relationship, we tend to be the most physically attracted to our partner, engage in sex more frequently, and see our relationship through rose-tinted glasses,” explains Dr. Cohen.
“As we experience this natural cycle in our relationship we start to become more comfortable with our partners and some of the initial attraction inevitably wanes,” she adds. So you can find comfort in the fact that it’s normal for attraction to ebb and flow in a relationship.
“This doesn’t necessarily correspond with a change in the overall relationship, because as mentioned, we are getting to know our partners in a more emotionally intimate way,” says Dr. Cohen. “However, this can be disconcerting.”
So, what are some factors that can make us feel less attracted to our partners? “The root of this is the fact that real life is way harder and far less sexy than dating is,” says Dr. Fraser.
“I call this ‘Relationship Incorporated’ — the business of love takes over the fun of love. You focus on mortgages and kids’ dentist appointments and forget to focus on each other. Unless you choose to do something about it and create novelty no matter how long you’ve been together, boredom will sink in.”
While becoming more comfortable with your partner is a sign of a healthy partnership, putting less effort into the relationship isn’t.
So if the attraction toward your partner has faded, there is a solution. “If you notice that you are experiencing an attraction lull, start by being more intentional in how you treat your partner, and how you treat yourself,” says Dr. Cohen, who recommends couples prioritize their relationship and carve out regular time for fun, intimacy, and connection.
“You can’t make something old be new again, but you can create novelty by practicing what I call ‘Making love intentional’,” adds Dr. Fraser.
Below are some tips to get you started:
Find little ways to be romantic. Leave a love note in your partner’s bag, surprise them with their favorite meal, or bring home flowers.
Be more physical. Studies show there is a compelling link between physical touch and relationship quality. Physical affection — specifically backrubs and massages, caressing, kissing on the lips, and kissing on the face — is strongly associated with partner satisfaction.
Get to know each other again. Sit down together at the end of the day for a meaningful conversation. “You may feel bored with your mate and believe you know everything about them, but you most definitely do not,” says Dr. Fraser. “So I give my couples a list of questions to explore on date night from ‘If we won a contest giving us three dream vacations, where would you want to go?’ to ‘What’s one thing you’d love to try sexually that you’ve been too shy to tell me?’” If you need more inspiration, the Paired app has an entire library of relationship questions and conversation starters!
Try a new activity together. Loss of attraction can happen when partners stop sharing new or exciting experiences together. Whether you go rock climbing, try a pottery class, or explore a new local hotspot in your neighborhood, research finds that introducing a sense of spontaneity and unpredictability to your relationship can heighten passion.
Make time for intimacy. Plan weekly or monthly date nights together — put them in the calendar and spent some time together, without distractions.
Go on weekly date nights. “Weekly dates do help,” says Dr. Fraser. “They take you away from the boring routine of Relationship Incorporated and into romance territory. Rules for date night? Leave the house. Do not talk about work, the house, or your kids. Plan something new. Touch, hold hands, even caress thighs under the table.”
Schedule sex. “There are two types of sexual desire — spontaneous and responsive,” explains Dr. Fraser. “The early ‘I can’t keep my hand off you’ spontaneous lust is what fades over time. So you need to cultivate responsive desire. That means, according to research, most couples only start making love because they plan to not because they feel turned on. So, instead of waiting around, choose to make love.”
Focus on the positives. “Make sure you focus on the positives, the things you like (and love!) about your partner,” says Dr. Fraser. “Tell them. Sharing appreciation is a predictor of long-term happiness in love, so do it daily. My husband and I share one thing we appreciate about each other before we fall asleep. Trust me, it helps, after all, seek and ye shall find.”
What about talking to your partner about your loss of attraction — should you bring it up with them? “In my expert opinion, it depends,” cautions Dr. Fraser.
“If you have very good communication skills, you can talk productively about the tough stuff, and you both have decent self-awareness and emotional regulation, then yes, have a loving, deep conversation about lack of attraction and what you can both do about it,” she says.
“Make sure you share that this is normal, and it’s because you’ve been together a while and you need to re-create novelty, romance, and spice together.”
However, it can also backfire. “If you’re not confident you’re ready for such a tough conversation, or if you worry your partner will be devastated and think the lack of attraction predicts doom, don’t bring it up,” says Dr. Fraser.
“Instead, start planning dates, romancing your partner, and working on your own mind. Great love and sex are all in your head," she says. "Attraction is an inside job. So vow to change your mind, not your mate.”
Remember that relationship dynamics evolve over time, so if you’ve found yourself less attracted to your partner than you once were, not all is lost. Making time for one another to have fun together and reconnect is the first step in finding that attraction again.
“Long-term relationships are hard,” adds Dr. Fraser. “There is no automatic ‘happily ever after’ even when we find someone fantastic and fall in love. Great relationships take effort, commitment, and intention. I teach my couples to make their love life a hobby — something they create time for, study, enjoy doing, and vow to master. The very good news is you are normal, you are not broken, and you can learn the tools to fall in love, over and over again with the one you are already with.”